PINEHURST, N.C.---Last season Florida State defensive end Brandon Jenkins caught most people off guard with his 13.5 sack season as he was named first team All-ACC.
Jenkins hasn't enjoyed the same anonymity this offseason. The Tallahassee native was recently named to four separate watch lists, including the Walter Camp Award for the nation's top player. As a result of being so highly touted, he and quarterback E.J. Manuel were selected by head coach Jimbo Fisher as one of FSU's player representatives at the ACC Kickoff.
After spending the morning at the driving range with Manuel, the junior defensive end was put through the media gauntlet doing print, TV, and radio interviews throughout the afternoon.
"I feel blessed to even be here and represent Florida State," he said on Sunday. "This is my team ever since I was born and I feel blessed to be in this position and I'm going to take advantage of it."
During the 2011 season, Jenkins won't be receiving more attention from just the media, but from extra blockers as well.
"I talk to Bjoern Werner and Tank Carradine, if I get double-teamed they've got to turn it on and go get them," he said. "That way there will be no double team, the whole defensive line will just create pressure in the pocket and just cause havoc for the quarterback."
Jenkins credited his breakout 2010 season to the arrival of new defensive ends coach D.J. Eliot. Not only did Eliot improve his technique, but his intensity each day in practice provided the former Florida High star with all the motivation he needed.
"I think I needed his energy," Jenkins said of Eliot. "He's very energetic, he likes to get after it and come out to practice every day and work hard. I think I really needed him."
While Jenkins' mother is proud of accomplishments (he said she has kept up with all his watch list accolades), she may be closely rivaled by Manuel. Manuel said the accolades couldn't have happened to a nicer guy, saying Jenkins is the type of guy you would want your sister to date.
Manuel is also the only quarterback in the conference who doesn't have to fear Jenkins who has bulked up this offseason.
"Even if you just look at him he's gotten a lot bigger. I think he's about 275 now," Manuel said. "I'm glad he's on my team and doesn't come around the edge to bother me. B-Jenk is going to do a great job … I think he's going to live up to that hype."
Swofford "We need to win more of our high-profile games with non-conference opponents."
Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner John Swofford also addressed the media on Sunday. One of the topics he touched on was the need for ACC teams to win more of their marquee non-conference matchups to help improve the league's image nationally as a conference.
"I think we've shown competitively in recent years that the depth in our league is probably the best that it's ever been," he said. "Obviously we need to win more of our high-profile games with non-conference opponents. That's the one thing we haven't done enough of in recent years. We've had some of it, but not enough of it. For us to gain the kind of respect that we want for Atlantic Coast Conference football, those are the kind of games we need to win going forward."
Swofford then pointed out the number of opportunities ACC teams will have to do that this season, most notably Florida State's September 17 matchup with Oklahoma.
"Our teams are playing some of the best teams from other AQ conferences. We don't seem to be finding the ones hanging around the bottom of the standings in these other leagues," the commissioner said. "We seem to be finding ones that are generally at the top of their leagues. We've got games against Auburn, Georgia, South Carolina and Florida from the Southeastern Conference. Ohio State form the Big Ten, Oklahoma from the Big 12, Stanford from the Pac-12, West Virginia from the Big East and three games versus Notre Dame. Those opportunities will be there for us, and hopefully we'll be able to win our fair share of those."
Jenkins was asked about the matchup with Sooners a number of times throughout the day. In his opinion, that game isn't just important for the ACC's reputation, but perhaps for the Seminoles' national title hopes.
"It is a statement game," he said. "Apparently that's the No. 1 team in the country, so it has to be. We can't come out empty, we've got to be on point in everything. We're working up to that, but we've got two games before that and we're going to prepare for that."
BC's Harris could become ACC's all-time leading rusher
FSU fans are plenty familiar with Boston College running back Montel Harris. In two games against the Seminoles the Jacksonville native has torched FSU for 179 and 191 yards.
Despite growing up just a few hours east of Tallahassee, the 5-foot-9, 207-pound never got much attention from FSU.
"I would think there's a chip on my shoulder," he said of playing FSU. "That's my dad's favorite team, they didn't even give me a look so I just want to show them what they were missing each time I play them."
While he has done plenty of damage against FSU, he has also hurt the rest of the conference a number of times. After rushing for 1,243 yards and 27 touchdowns last season Harris is just 1,003 yards shy of becoming the ACC's all-time leading rusher. He is also considered by many to be the front-runner for conference player of the year.
"That would be a great goal to accomplish this year," he said of the conference rushing record. "It will mean a lot more when I'm done playing football and I'm able to look back at it and see all I've done. But right now I'm just focused on winning games and helping my team win."
Jenkins said he hopes the FSU can do their part in slowing down Harris' march towards the record. He has faced him three times, now including once in high school when Jenkins' Florida High team took on Harris' Trinity Christian.
"He's elusive. He's a great player," Jenkins said of Harris. "I played him in high school too. During my freshman year, he and (former Clemson running back) Jamie Harper were on the same team. He was doing the same thing. Now he's just bigger and stronger. He's a great player, very fast, and he has great feet."
Harris said he doesn't plan to keep track of how many more yards he needs each week to reach the record.
"I try not think about the numbers because then I'll just be chasing instead of playing football," he said.